Apple under antitrust scanner as it ramps up Beats streaming service

Apple is being subjected to deep scrutiny by the US Federal Trade Commission on its dealings with music record labels prior to the launch of the upgraded Beats music streaming service.

To launch the Beats streaming service at its upcoming Developer Conference, Apple seeks to give the service a brand new face with exclusive content in a move to effectively rival or beat other services like Spotify or YouTube in the coming year.

However, the FTC has taken a grim view of Apple's efforts, launching an investigation on the latter to find out whether Apple is using the image and popularity of its iTunes service to ink several deals with record labels, thereby putting rival streaming services at a disadvantage.

In the process, questions are being asked to record labels on whether Apple is engaging in practices which differ significantly from other services, like not playing ad-supported music or adding more songs in paid categories.

Even though digital music streaming and song downloads matched physical sales in 2014, iTunes saw its share of music downloads fall 8 per cent year on year. The emergence of streaming services like Spotify led the growth curve with subscriptions increasing by 39 per cent over the previous year, which has now led Apple to invest actively in its Beats streaming service.

Apple is in talks with popular music artists like Taylor Swift, Florence and the Machine to sign them up for offering their exclusive music content to music fans through the Beats service.

So far, there has not been any comment from the FTC regarding Apple's dealings, though we are sure we will know more before Apple hosts the next Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

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